Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate Banana Pictorial Guide

Chocolate Banana is a popular choice for birthday celebrations. It looks like the pairing of sweet ripe bananas and a moist dense chocolate cake is good for all ages. Since I've started selling my bakes in late October, this is by far my most ordered cake or cupcakes! Like to really thank everyone for the support by providing a pictorial guide to assembling this cake. You can use this as a loose guide in making a lovely cake for your loved ones and you could also use your own favorite chocolate cake and frosting recipes.

Step 1 -Bake the cakes

I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe, from the Pioneer Woman! It's an easy, fuss-free recipe, I will usually also whip up a batch of cupcakes, everyone loves a hidden banana, not so hidden now but will be covered by a frosting swirl later. 

Chocolate Cake
227g unsalted butter
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 cups All-Purpose flour
11/2 cups fine-grained white sugar (300g)
1/4 teaspoon fine seasalt
165ml buttermilk (Which I sub for 150ml Meiji Milk and 15ml of lemon juice, let stand for 10minutes)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 175C, top-bottom.

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium fire. Swirl it constantly, until it reaches a slightly browned stage.
2. Add the cocoa powder and let it melt within the butter. This would start to look very thick.
3. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Let it come to a boil and boil for about 30seconds. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt and whisk to combine and aerate it slightly.
5. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, add the eggs and vanilla essence, stir to combine.
6. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture, stirring quickly and thoroughly to let it come together into a  thick, sticky paste.
7. Add the baking soda to the buttermilk mixture, stir briefly and pour everything into the cocoa-flour paste. Stir vigorously to combine the mixtures and it will become a pretty liquid batter.
8.1. For cupcakes, spoon them into cupcakes cases, drop a sliced banana chunk into each cup if you'd like and bake them for 18 to 19 minutes, turning the pan around at 13 minutes.

8.2. For whole cakes, I prefer to do 1.25 portion of above recipe, divide them equally into 2 lined 8-inch pans, and baked for 40 minutes. I've tried 1 portion and 1.5 portion size before, I find 1.25x just the right height after slicing off the slight domed top.

It's a very tender cake, so cool them totally before removing it from the pan and be very careful at it or they may break into pieces.

Step 2 -Level the top of the cakes

I used 6 satay sticks and stick them in all around the cake at an even height from the bottom up. Place a serrated knife on 2 sticks at a time and gently slice into the cake, moving from stick to stick until the cake has been sliced in round the circumference. Remove all the sticks if they had not already fallen out by now, and slice through the center. Remove the sliced tops and go ahead, eat 'em all up, they are frequently the best parts of a cake!

Step 3 - Make Butterscotch Sauce and Cook the Bananas

This step is pretty optional. You can just use riped, sliced bananas and sandwich the cake layers together with the frosting of your choice. I like to use butterscotch sauce as it lends a buttery fragrance to the bananas which also releases their aroma upon cooking. The sauce is also thick and sticky enough to act as the glue between the cake layers. 

I usually use a large plate which is similar to the size of the cake and cut enough bananas to cover the plate as an estimate for the amount of banana slices needed. Note that they will shrink a little upon cooking so do have some extra on hand. They turned a beautiful bright yellow after cooking.

Butterscotch sauce:
180g thickened cream
160g brown sugar
150g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil. Simmer at low heat for around 5 minutes, constantly stirring the mixture until it thickens. 

This will make a large batch. Leave enough sauce in the pan to cover the amount of sliced bananas (Approx. half cup) and keep the rest in a jar to cool and keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Place thickly-cut bananas into the sauce and simmer, flip over, simmer until the bananas just turned slightly soft. This should take a couple of minutes only. Do not cook them for very long or they may become too mushy. 

Step 4 - Sandwich the cake layers with the butterscotch bananas. 

Place 1 cake layer on the actual serving cake board, leveled side facing upwards. Arrange the cooked banana slices on top, placing them close together so every bite yields a large mouth of bananas. 

Next, drizzle the remaining sauce over the bananas. 

Lastly, place the 2nd cake layer, bottom facing up onto the banana slices. Press the cake down firmly to stick it to the sauce. 

Now, leave the cake in the fridge for the butterscotch and bananas to cool and the cakes to stick together. Ooh look at how the sauce dripped and pooled. A sticky sweet mess. 

Step 5 - Frost the cake with Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB)

Once the cake has sat in the fridge for around 1 hour which will have the cake layers and bananas stuck together quite nicely, the frosting can go on. I always try to make a large batch of SMB so that whenever I need them, I take the amount needed from the freezer, defrost in the fridge overnight and whip to a smooth cream before using. 1 batch of SMB (5 egg white) can make around 2 8-inch or 40 cupcakes. However, if the middle of the cake uses SMB instead of butterscotch, then 5 egg white would only be enough for 1 cake with a little left over. 

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream 
5 large egg whites
250g granulated sugar
340g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or essence
pinch of salt
200g melted and cool dark chocolate

1. Place egg whites and sugar in a clean and dry metal mixer bowl, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Using the whisk attachment of mixer, immediately start whipping until the meringue is thick and glossy. The mixture should be at room temperature by now (It may take around 10 minutes)
3. Switch over to paddle attachment and on low speed, start to add butter cubes gradually, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture. Add vanilla, salt and melted chocolate. Continue to beat on low speed until well combined.

Before frosting the cake, do place little pieces of aluminium foil or baking paper beneath the cake, just slightly tuck them under the circumference of the cake and make sure it covers the cake board. This is so that any excess cream will drop onto the foil and can be easily pulled out after the cake is frosted, leaving the cake board clean. I find that easier than trying to wipe the board clean thereafter which still usually leaves it looking oily. (Note: do not use kitchen towels as they get soaked and sticks under the cake.. you don't want guests biting into pieces of leftover kitchen towel! eeeui)

Place the cakes on a turntable (Ikea has the best reasonably-priced ones, at $19.90 and is a good size!) and frost away! For a good video tutorial, check out my absolute favourite lady "". She's superb with frosting and has so many good and creative ideas! I've used a number of her recipes and they have all been easy to follow, with good results. 

Once done, leave the cake in the fridge again to set for another hour. 

Step 6 - Finishing Chocolate Glaze

Before putting on the final touch to the cake, start by placing the whole cake in the freezer. As the chocolate glaze has to be slightly warm to be pourable, the cake has to be frozen so that the buttercream would not melt on contact with the glaze. For cupcakes, I will freeze them for 15 minutes and for whole cakes, half an hour at least. Meanwhile, make the glaze!

Chocolate Glaze:

50g dark chocolate, chopped into pieces (I used 70% cocoa)
100ml heavy cream

1. Simply melt the dark chocolate and cream together in a bowl set over simmering water. Do not let any water or vapor get into this mixture. 
2. Cool slightly to a temperature just warm to the touch and use immediately.  
3. Pour the glaze generously over the top of the cake until they reach the circumference and gently nudge the glaze so that it glides over the side. 
4. Place it back into the fridge to set for the last time, until time to serve. 

It's best to remove the cake from the fridge for around 20 minutes to let the buttercream and cake soften a little as they can be a little hard when too cold. 

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